Peep Hitches a Ride

Daytime goes away late at night here in Vancouver. Tonight, Chris acknowledged the blue sky at around 10 PM. We had biked to Tanya, Mia, and Gwendal’s house after my Spartacus Books event, and were having beers while conversing in their front yard. The women worked for Momentum Magazine and Chris and I had met them earlier today in their offices. We’d been in the city for about a day now, arriving via Seattle with no problems the day before.

We left Seattle yesterday around 11 AM yesterday and drove north, stopping in the outskirts of Seattle to see a mural before having lunch and office-time in Bellingham. I bought an Australian visa in Bellingham and mailed two copies of Stencil Nation out. I even found three stencils there before having an easy border crossing into British Columbia.

There were no problems at the border, but Chris and I hit our first traffic jam at the tunnel going into Vancouver. While we were stuck in traffic, I mimicked the Canadian accents via CBC’s programming. The weather was amazing during the bottleneck. We were antsy about getting out our bikes and into the city. We zig zagged northeast to our crash pad on 20th Ave and met all the roomies except Devon, our hostess.  They gave us bike path maps and advice on going for a ride to enjoy the amazing summer day.

Chris was in contact via a mutual friend with Collin,  who wanted to meet up. Collin rides a pedicab in Vancouver and has also traveled extensively on the west coast. Like me, Collin’s life changed when he rode his first Critical Mass. So Chris and I hit bike streets (you can tell they’re for bikes because they have bikes on the street signs and bike crossing buttons to push to change the lights) over to False Creek at 1st Ave. There’s a Bucky ball there, so we met Collin near that and then rode on the south shore west towards sunset from Kitsilano Beach.

After splurging on a great view, and tasty appetizers at a touristy restaurant, we crossed Burrard Bridge into downtown Vancouver. Collin showed us the Law Court, the Art Gallery (VAG), the Main Library building, and other landmarks. We ended up on Hastings Street and then cruised down into Gastown. Many many stencils appeared on the walls and down the alleys during this ride. Chris and I realized that we’d been biking around for about five hours. It was 11PM and we had to set up camp in Devon’s front room. And meet Devon. So we biked home.

I began to run out of things this morning. Chris and I ran out of cereal so I had to eat fruit salad with yogurt. We ran out of bananas, peaches, and coffee too. I also ran out of tooth paste, deodorant, and shampoo. One of Devon’s roomies directed us to Commercial St. for cheap produce, so we shopped and bought cheap berries and chocolate. Not so cheap milk. Blew back to the pad, dropped off the goods, and then biked into Vancouver. We took a different route into downtown and I continued to find stencils.

I wanted to go to Gastown to look for more stencils and Chris wanted to buy some new shoes to replace his faded pair. We biked the north shore of False Creek and then cut over just before Stanley Park. Chris bought his shoes while I rode through un-named alleys and photographed stencils. Then we went down to Gastown and ran into People’s Pigeon Park. I was drawn to it’s art wall, but when I walked over to it, I noticed the needles more than the few stencils I came across. Hard core park, with a soup line in the middle and all types of people looking for their fix.

Across the street I saw an alley that I thought would  have stencil art, so Chris and I biked into it. Civilization in all its horrorshow glory popped out in that alley. It was the skid row shooting gallery, so in five minutes of piss-smelling infamy, I got schooled on the miseries of heroin and crack. It seemed like every second or third person was getting high on the hard stuff. Many types of people, from the worn out to the disabled were in those two blocks of alley, sticking needles into their skin or smoking dirty pipes. I got a bit sick to my stomach and peeled out of there quickly. Chris had never seen anything like that in all of his travels over the decades. He was shaken as well.

We found a cafe and had lunch, trying to push the experience out of our current memory. The women at Momentum Magazine quickly calmed our jitters with warm greetings and questions. Stencil Nation was listed in the latest issue of their mag, thanks to Janet Attard in Toronto. They all knew Janet and had just met her at her studio. And looked at the book there. They eventually had to go back to work so Chris rode out to 1st Ave with me and found a great stencil that Amy from Momentum had tipped off. Chris turned around to go back to meet them for after-work food and I rode back to the pad to pack the bags for the Spartacus event.

Rode over to E. Hastings Street and found the book store an hour before the event started. I helped move the book shelves and set up the screen and projector for the gig. It went well. About 8 people attended and I finally felt good about the content of the presentation. I even played a video of The Cans Festival at the end of the slides. Amy from Momentum asked great questions and made me hmm and haw through the answers. I sold some art and a few books. Chris and I then rode on an adventure with outlaw cyclist Karl, funded in part by Mark and his crazy canuck bucks. All I can say is: “Logger Club. Now Accepting Members. 18+”

We ended up biking close to the crash pad to the front yard of Tanya, Mia, and Gwendal. Karl told stories about ancient coder days and Gwendal discussed map making and other things. Amy kept asking the big questions and her father told funny stories about relevant topics. At the end of the night, two neighbors stopped by. Reece and Sara had been in another ‘hood passing out flyers about their lost kitty Peep. Seems like Peep “hitched a ride to” another neighborhood via “a tradesman’s tuck by accident”. Poor Peep. She must’ve wanted to go on an adventure.

Vancouver seems like a diverse city. Earlier today, I watched people walk by as Chris shopped for shoes. All colors. All races. Even in the shooting gallery alley ways all nations were represented. I was stuck seeing a normal looking Asian woman watch people shoot up in Pigeon Park as she jonesed for the fix. And I couldn’t stop staring at Sara, genuinely concerned about Peep while staring at her eyes and wondering what planet she was from.  She had striking features that didn’t fit any ethnicity I could think of, so I looked deeply at her features and wondered about the infinite physical beauties of humanity. Such rich genetic diversity in this part or the world.

Back at the pad, unpacking all my stuff from the event, I couldn’t find my camera. I am hoping that I left it in the front yard of the house I visited. I am hoping that it didn’t bounce out of my bag. If that happened, and it could (I lost my gloves and lip balm in Portland because I left it on the back of my bike), I’ve lost several dozen stencil photos, and a damn good digital camera. Let’s hope they found it in their yard!

UPDATE: They found my camera. I went back and picked it up from Gwendal.